[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 24 January, 2005, 14:14 GMT
Man jailed over tsunami e-mails
Christopher Pierson
Pierson was jailed for six months
A man who sent out hoax e-mails falsely telling people their holidaying relatives had been killed by the Asian tsunami has been jailed for six months.

Christopher Pierson, 40, from Ruskington, Lincs, sent 35 e-mails after seeing pleas for information on the Sky News website.

His solicitor said a bereavement and the pressure of looking after his seriously ill son caused a breakdown.

One victim said: "The suffering that e-mail caused I cannot explain.".

'Emotional hell'

Pierson, who was arrested on New Year's Eve, cried as the court heard how he had set up the bogus e-mail account and falsely announced the deaths.

He gathered the details of worried relatives from the Sky news website, where addresses had been posted in a bid for information.
The suffering that that email caused I cannot explain ... it was such a cruel thing to do
Hoax victim

The e-mails purported to be official messages from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Appearing at Bow Street Magistrates he admitted one count of public nuisance and a charge under Section One of the Malicious Communications Act.

He called the offence "a moment of madness" and asked for leniency for his family.

The court heard Pierson had suffered for 13 years after the stillbirth of his first child in 1991.

His uncle had also died just days before Christmas and another son had been taken seriously ill.

His solicitor Andrew McArthur said on top of caring for his diabetic son, Pierson was looking after his mother who was suffering breast cancer, his father who had a stroke and his aunt who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

"He somehow saw that by sending these emails he was providing some sort of closure to the relatives and families to those people who may have been killed due to the tsunami."

But the magistrates told Pierson the "emotional hell" he had put people through was "indescribable" and the offence showed an element of planning.

A statement from one recipient read: "The suffering that that e-mail caused I cannot explain - not knowing who was telling the truth, it was such a cruel thing to do.

"I hope the person who did this will never know the suffering they have caused and will be punished."

Scotland Yard was forced to set up an incident room and spent ten days trying to contact those families and friends affected - at a cost of 10,000.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The judge said Pierson caused untold emotional upset



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific